UBS Group Finance
UBS Group Finance
The creation of WCAT (Workflow Control & Adjustment Tool) sought to consolidate and improve the usability of disparate and disconnected legacy systems.
The new enterprise application would provide a space where report data, approvals, root-cause analysis and adjustments could be centralised, monitored and actioned.
Fractured workflows were researched and re-designed to facilitate a more efficient financial close process. Recurrent and transactional tasks were automated, whilst the provision of more meaningful data analysis tools and MI would better inform the business strategy.
Lead UX Designer
1 year 6 months
Failures with regulatory reporting adherence.
UBS Reporting and Analytics (RAS) is responsible for providing an inventory of around 4000 reports to their consumers.
Cross-divisional reports were typically created by disparate teams using disconnected tools and legacy technologies. This led to a service offering with a fragmented user experience for both daily users and report consumers across the business, as well as costly administration and maintenance fees.
The inherent consequence of poor usability and inefficient workflows - and the primary reason for building WCAT - is the increased operational risk to FINMA regulatory reporting adherence.
Several penalties had been issued due to late report publication. An internal wash-up highlighted the following problems which would set the foundation for our design brief:
- Limited visibility of data readiness.
- Multiple legacy P&L applications increasing RTB cost.
- Conflicting data stores increase system-error.
- Static and time-consuming control report setup.
- Inconsistent commentary and adjustment creation.
- Limited tools available for in-app data analysis.
The design research that followed would seek to distinguish between business problems and human problems whilst placing an emphasis on 'why' the problems exist and what impact(s) they may have.
Improve the inconsistent and manually adjusted P&L process.
The application was to serve all functions within UBS Group Finance.
However, the short-term focus was daily balance sheet and P&L (Profit and Loss) reporting. This would be the first 'Control Function' and user community that we would design for.
The profit and loss (P&L) statement is a financial statement that summarises the revenues, costs, and expenses incurred during a specified period.
When used together, the P&L statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement provide an in-depth look at a company’s overall financial performance.
Excel is great. It’s flexible, powerful and quick. In general, it’s the number one choice for ad-hoc analysis.
But it’s not so good at connecting to data sources, or for large amounts of data that need to be analysed and adjusted alongside a repeatable workflow.
The future application was to be responsive yet optimised for desktop display (1440+) in alignment with the current access needs.
The design goal was to provide a domain where report data, approvals, root-cause analysis, and adjustments could be centralised, monitored and actioned.
The ability to visualise and safeguard data quality was key so that when an issue arises with a feed, it can be highlighted and displayed alongside a recommended course of action.
In the long-term, this is where machine learning and enhanced automation would play their role but were not part of our design focus for initial MVP creation.
Build trust and set expectations.
The key to solving business problems is to focus on human problems. Time and money had been repeatedly wasted on failed initiatives because of a lack of respect for the value of research-led design. When I joined the programme, ideas were being dragged from excel spreadsheets straight into code with no formalised design process in place.
My first task was to get to know the stakeholders, understand what makes them tick, and give an insight into how we work and why. A powerful tool when designing for 'Fin-Tech', is to communicate the ROI of (good) design. For example, the adoption of HCD can;
- Reduce the risk of costly failures because ideas are validated early in the design process.
- Identify opportunities.
- Accelerate development and reduce defects.
- Help to plan for the future through experience strategy exercises.
- Clarify project goals.
Senior stakeholders needed to recognise the value of evidence-led design, and the functional requirements clearly traced back to behavioural/attitudinal research and business analysis.
Whilst the programme had not been functioning in an efficient and structured way, it had been ongoing for 10 months prior to our involvement. The business analysis and product change team had documented a vast amount of information and requirements that needed to be reviewed.
This would be the starting point for our research. We converted the information into 'proto-personas' and a 'Lean UX Canvas' and questions that could be used to plan our user research and validate/invalidate the assumptions.
Journey mapping to expose points of friction and expose opportunities.
Workflow optimisation requires a deep understanding of the tasks that our users were completing, how, in what sequence, and why.
Alongside user interviews, we applied behavioural analysis to capture a more detailed view of the tasks that users complete in order to achieve their goals.
Modernise and improve efficiency through enhanced automation controls.
Regulatory compliance was to be ensured by facilitating and supporting decision-making throughout the E2E financial close process.
Our research highlighted that the design of the following, core, EPIC features would be crucial to the successful adoption of the application throughout the organisation.
Tasks (grouped into 'Work Packages') would now be managed through a new workflow framework, with a team dashboard available for different control functions and user roles. The assumption was that:
- Supervisors could better manage the distribution of effort and track task completion. Tasks and reports can be submitted to supervisors for review, triggering the next stage of the financial-close workflow.
- Work Packages - and their nested Units of Work/Tasks - are linked/dependent on the supply of data feeds from trading desks.
When feed data arrives, automated controls help to identify exceptions and data quality issues, then trigger tasks for the 'Analyst' to investigate. Tasks are segmented by desk or report and nested in Units of Work.
Custom reporting capability, including Power BI and OpenFin integration, to facilitate data analysis. Key features, included:
- Drill-down functionality to support root-cause analysis.
- Single (team) point of entry for commentary and adjustments.
- Report/task progress could be previewed with counterparts in the Front Office ahead of regulatory publication.
- Delivery of automated, predictive commentary through NLG, which improves timeliness, accuracy and consistency.
The application is built on a modular Design System to improve consistency, flexibility and efficiency.
Testimonials and key client feedback.
The project proved to be one of the most challenging that I have ever undertaken - the scope of the product's brief was huge. However, during our 18-month contribution to the programme, we achieved a lot. One of the most important impacts we had was on the mindset and ways of working within the 'Product Change' team.
“Complex requirements were quickly transformed into elegant solutions to problems that our users have struggled with for years. This is reflected in the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received from our user community as well as broader stakeholders across Finance and beyond. We have learned about the importance and value of good product design and will certainly prioritise this going forward. Not only does a well thought through design deliver an enjoyable user experience, it also introduces efficiency into our processes.”
Product Transformation Lead
"WCAT has an exceptional design and user experience.”
Head of IB Quants
“WCAT is shaping into the vision we had for our next-generation P&L application.”
Head of Product Control